OSPCA dis­ap­pointed charges dropped against Marineland

No rea­son­able chance for con­vic­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LIAM CASEY

NI­A­GARA FALLS, ONT. — An­i­mal cru­elty charges laid against Marineland were dropped Thurs­day af­ter pros­e­cu­tors said there was no rea­son­able chance of con­vic­tion on most of the 11 counts faced by the On­tario tourist at­trac­tion.

Dur­ing a brief hear­ing in a Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont., court­room, the Crown said it could have pro­ceeded on three of the charges — which re­lated to fail­ing to com­ply with stan­dards of care for a pea­cock, guinea hens and a red deer — but did not be­lieve it was in the pub­lic in­ter­est to do so, cit­ing po­ten­tial court costs and a weak case.

Crown at­tor­ney Stephen Gal­braith said pros­e­cu­tors had in­stead come up with an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion that in­cluded on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of the amuse­ment park and zoo.

“The Crown’s case is more cir­cum­stan­tial than di­rect ev­i­dence,” Gal­braith told the court. “The pho­to­graphs and video pro­vided pre­serves ob­ser­va­tions, but there was no in­de­pen­dent ex­am­i­na­tion of the an­i­mals. The vet­eri­nar­ian’s re­port was not able to de­ter­mine the cause of is­sues re­lated to the an­i­mals.”

The jus­tice of the peace hear­ing the case ac­cepted the Crown’s sub­mis­sion and with­drew charges.

The 11 charges against Marineland were the re­sult of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the On­tario So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals that was launched last Novem­ber af­ter the an­i­mal wel­fare agency re­ceived a com­plaint.

Marineland was ini­tially charged with five counts of an­i­mal cru­elty late last year in con­nec­tion with the treat­ment of pea­cocks, guinea hens and black bears. In Jan­uary, the OSPCA laid six more an­i­mal cru­elty charges against Marineland re­lat­ing to elk, red deer and fal­low deer.

In a state­ment is­sued af­ter Thurs­day’s court hear­ing, Marineland said it had suf­fered “rep­u­ta­tional dam­age” as a re­sult of the charges that were with­drawn.

The OSPCA said it’s sur­prised the charges were with­drawn.

“We are ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed in this out­come and feel that this mat­ter is of pub­lic in­ter­est as all an­i­mals rely on hu­mans for ap­pro­pri­ate care for their gen­eral wel­fare and the pub­lic de­mands this,” said OSPCA chief in­spec­tor Con­nie Mal­lory.

The 35-page com­plaint that prompted the OSPCA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Novem­ber was filed by a Cal­i­for­nia-based an­i­mal rights group called Last Chance for An­i­mals. It con­tained al­le­ga­tions of an­i­mal abuse along with pho­to­graphs and videos from a former Marineland em­ployee.

Marineland said at the time that the com­plaint was part of a smear cam­paign by a former em­ployee who had been fired for poor per­for­mance and in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour. It also ar­gued the images and videos may be doc­tored. The former em­ployee, who re­quested anonymity for fear of be­ing sued, told CP he quit on good terms and is not an an­i­mal ac­tivist and doesn’t want the park to close.

Marineland re­it­er­ated that the OSPCA laid the charges to ap­pease an­i­mal rights groups that have crit­i­cized it for not do­ing enough to pro­tect an­i­mals.

“The OSPCA lit­er­ally pre­pared the first of these charges on site, af­ter spend­ing a single af­ter­noon ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant and view­ing more than 4,000 an­i­mals across more than three hun­dred acres at our park. The OSPCA did not re­move or iso­late any of the 4,000 an­i­mals, de­spite lay­ing mul­ti­ple charges.”

NI­A­GARA THIS WEEK PHOTO

Eleven counts of an­i­mal cru­elty charges against Marineland were dropped af­ter pros­e­cu­tors said there was no rea­son­able chance of con­vic­tion.

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